Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft roundup: Connor to Carolina; King heads to Gateway City

-Courtesy of Penn State Uinversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 27, 2008 – A pair of Penn State standouts, linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford) and cornerback Justin King (Pittsburgh), were selected today in the National Football League Draft.

The Carolina Panthers selected Connor in the third round and the St. Louis Rams chose King with the second pick of the fourth round.

With the selection of Connor and King, 234 Nittany Lions have been drafted under Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and more than 300 of his players have signed NFL contracts. Thirty-four Nittany Lions have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, 31 of whom have played for Paterno. Six Nittany Lions have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft over the past five years.

Connor will be reunited with former Nittany Lion linebacker Tim Shaw on the Panthers’ roster. Shaw was selected by Carolina in the 2007 NFL Draft. King will join Penn Stater David Macklin with the Rams. A cornerback, Macklin signed as a free agent with Rams last month after playing with Washington in 2007.

Connor and King led the 2007 Nittany Lion defense to top 15 national rankings in rushing (No. 7, 93.8 ypg), scoring (No. 7, 17.5 ppg) and total defense (No. 11, 308.2 ypg), as well as No. 2 in sacks (46) and No. 10 in tackles for losses (102). Penn State, Ohio State and USC were the only teams to finish in the top 15 in all five categories. They were instrumental in the Nittany Lion defense held seven teams to 17 points or less this past season, including a 24-17 win over Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Winner of the 2007 Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, Connor established himself as one of the all-time greats to play the position at "Linebacker U." A product of Strath Haven High School, he is the Nittany Lions' all-time tackle leader with 419. A two-time first team All-American, he also was a team co-captain as a senior.

Connor posted nine tackles vs. the Aggies to finish the 2007 season with 145 stops, the second-highest season mark in Penn State history behind All-American Greg Buttle’s 165 in 1974. A starter in the last 33 games of his career, he also had one tackle for loss vs. Texas A&M and ended his career with 34, tied for the 12th best mark at Penn State with Paul Posluszny.

In the 2008 Senior Bowl, Connor made a game-high nine tackles and grabbed an interception, earning the Under Armour Award as the North MVP. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week four times in his outstanding career.

Connor graduated from Penn State in December.

A starter in all 26 games the past two seasons, King (Pittsburgh) emerged as one of the nation’s top cover cornerbacks. As a junior in 2007, he earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media and was a second team all-conference pick in 2006. Last year, King led the Big Ten and was No. 19 in the nation with 17 passes defended, recording 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions.

A prep All-American at Gateway High School, King enrolled at Penn State in January 2005 and was instrumental in the Nittany Lions’ earning a 29-9 record the past three years, among the Top 15 marks in the nation. During the 2007 season, he recorded 36 solo tackles among his 49 stops, with two interceptions, 15 pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. He ranked seventh on the squad in tackles.

A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, King graduated from Penn State in six semesters, earning his degree in letters, arts and sciences in December 2007.

There were 31 former Nittany Lions on NFL rosters during the 2007 season, placing Penn State in the top 15 nationally among schools in producing current NFL players. Former Nittany Lions Jay Alford and Kareem McKenzie won Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants last season.

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